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Bring Your Whole Self...To the Job Search

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, speak on a number of different occasions over the years. Kathy isn’t one of those “stodgy” government speakers. No matter her message she always comes across just as she is in ‘real life’ – honest, authentic and quick witted (yes, she’s funny).  

Earlier this year,  Kathy spoke at an event and I heard her discuss a new theme – one that I very much appreciated, because it’s something I believe in wholeheartedly. Her basic message was the importance of bringing your ‘whole self’ to work. Disability is but one aspect of a person’s life, not a definition of who they are, what they have accomplished or what they have to offer to an employer. For those in the midst of (or considering) a job search, this is critical information to remember. The biggest question to ask yourself is this: “Why should XYZ company hire ME?!”

Employers do not hire people with disabilities... they hire people who can perform the specific requirements of a job. Fortunately, today’s employers are realizing, more than ever before, that a diverse workforce is one that includes people of ALL abilities. However,  it is the responsibility of every jobseeker to position him/herself as the best candidate for the job. This means more than just being sure hard and soft skills are aligned in a resume to match a job description (although that step is pretty important). 

Part of the job search process (or homework, if you will) is figuring out why you would be a good match for a particular company. For example, are you involved in your community in a way that aligns with the organization’s community efforts? Are your values similar to the values the company exhibits or displays (on their website)? Do you believe in the company’s mission and vision? How might you help the company meet their overall goals? The answers to these questions require you to consider your ‘whole’ self, and not simply one aspect of yourself.  

John Dewey, a famous American psychologist, philosopher, educator, social critic and political activist once said, “To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.” I would argue the only way to do that is to follow Kathy Martinez’s lead and bring your 'whole self’...to the job search.  

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